Matney Judson lost his right leg when he was 13 in a buggy accident. He was to hurry to town that day to fetch the doctor. In his haste, he put his foot on the wheel hub instead of the metal step. The horses spooked, his leg caught in the spokes, and he was dragged for some distance. His leg was removed after gangrene set in.
In 1924, Matney and his father emigrated to B.C. to homestead near his brother Marion, in one of the small, narrow valleys of Upper Bradley Creek. Matney had a neighbour who lived one homestead over from him. Like Matney, George Rhodes was a bachelor. The two had much more in common.
George lost his left leg in a sawmill accident on the Coast. He had an eight-inch stump and an artificial leg. Matney also had a full leg but, since he had worked as a blacksmith, he made himself an articulating knee. One of the men would order a new pair of shoes from the catalogue and they would each wear one of the shoes.
In later years, Matney moved to a retirement home in Maple Ridge. When the building was to be torn down a sale of unclaimed items was held. George and Salli Rice bought Matney’s homemade leg. For many years the leg propped up the corner of the bar as a conversation piece at their home in Hope.
Louis Judson described his part in the three-feet story.
“In April of 1947, we were working a mill at Ruth Lake. I was distracted that day, worrying about something. I was operating the stick that moves the carriage ahead to the saw blade. The canter rolled a log onto the carriage. It had a crook on the butt that knocked me onto the carriage. That would have been okay but the log also had a stump pole sticking out. It hit the feed stick. I was pulled ahead and my pant cuff was caught in the saw blade.
“When I untied my boot, there was just a flap of skin about as thick as my hand. The saw blade had cut off my first and second toes. Then my foot had turned and the blade cut across the top of my foot.
“My brother fired up his old Chev. I got in the front and held the flap of skin as best I could. Someone brought me a piece of belt lacing and I wrapped it around my leg to make a tourniquet.”
Judson was taken to a first aid depot at the Forest Grove store. A pressure bandage was put on the stump but he had to get to the nearest hospital at Williams Lake.
“George Cruikshank had a taxi. Everyone called him Sweet Pea. He had to stop at Houseman Road in Buffalo Creek to pick up his girlfriend who wanted to go shopping in Williams Lake. We waited a half-hour for her to get ready.
“It was a four-hour trip on very rough roads. We stopped every now and then to loosen the tourniquet. I was in shock so didn’t have any pain.”
When Judson returned from the hospital he was anxious to get back to work.
“I made myself a peg leg so I could bend my knee and walk on that. I carved the peg, put a thick pad for my knee to rest on, and used a strip of leather to tie it on. I was used to peg legs, with both my uncle and George Rhodes having ones. Didn’t think it was any big deal.”
When he returned to work, Louis was determined to make the mill safer to operate. He changed the push feed stick to a pull stick. He also made sure everyone removed stump poles from logs before they were put on the carriage.
He travelled to Vancouver for a fitting for a prosthesis. The first attempt was a wooden foot with rubber plugs to provide movement. The prosthesis cut into his skin so he reverted to his peg leg. A later prosthesis was made from fiberglass and was much more successful.
“I never worried about having just one foot. Through the years I ice skated, belonged to a square dancing club and even roller skated.”
Louis is now 97. When we were visiting places for stories for his book in 2015, he was down every trail and up every hill before me. I danced with him for many years before I knew that he had an artificial foot. Just a few years ago he was at the New Year’s Eve dance at the Forest Grove Legion. He made a point of dancing with every woman there.